Micah 6:8: Race, Transformation and Justice
Introduction by Dr. Kagwiria Ndethiu
One of my greatest joys as a teacher is the opportunity to witness a student learning. To hear them formulate questions, wade through confusion, increase their knowledge, develop convictions, build comradery, and gain humility. Leading students through books like Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), Compassion (Nouwen et al), Renovation of the Heart (Dallas Willard) and The Mission of God’s People (Christopher Wright) has been particularly meaningful after the past two years. The apostle Paul directs us, as members of one body, to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15; 1 Cor 12:26–27). Times of crisis amplify the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian; to be part of the Body of Christ?” Francis Schaeffer exhorts us to love as The Mark of a Christian.
The Lord Jesus Christ, whose name we bear, was visibly moved in times of grief (John 11:33,38). How do we respond to grief and tragedy? Writing as a believer with the mind of Christ, Kaylee Byerly focused on the crisis of racial injustice in this country. I am honored to introduce her reflection on Rev. Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Kaylee offers two theological presuppositions that determine the Christian response to injustice as one of obedience, humility and transformation. It is my Lenten prayer that as members of the Body we would journey together, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Bio: A senior at Wheaton College, student-athlete Kaylee Byerly majors in Spanish with a pre-medical emphasis. From a longing for racial and social equality, she desires to walk alongside and advocate for the marginalized by means of medical care and Spanish.
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
A principal issue of ‘white society’ in the United States is that shallow, lukewarm acceptance of people of color continues to linger. It is not overt racism, but this attitude of indifference that has perpetuated especially systemic racism.
So, what is the difference between people of just tepid acceptance and those who understand the urgency for racial Justice?
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
From this verse, we see that there are a lot of things we should be: we should be just, we should be merciful and compassionate, we should be humble.
It’s possible to make these “shoulds” happen. But in doing so, is it simply social acquiescence, or an expression of love for the precepts of Micah 6:8?
A love of these precepts is a product of a transformed mind. If we just actuate these “shoulds” of Justice, mercy and humility without having allowed ourselves to be changed by them, we are not only being disingenuous to ourselves, but especially to those who reap the consequences of systemic injustice.
Two underpinning realities must be recognized to comprehend the implications of Micah 6:8:
- Human beings are made in the image of God. Therefore each has an innately equal value regardless of the subjective value assigned by any society.
- Divine Justice refers to God’s will being fulfilled. It transcends human volition that is rooted in fallen, biased judgment. Since God is the True sovereign, Justice is dictated by His prerogative alone. Jesus rejected worldly justice; he obeyed what the Father required of him in order to bring about divine Justice.
A prerequisite for actuating Justice is being willing to walk into and acknowledge our own personal brokenness and twisted views of reality. It’s only after we step into this posture of humility, one that invites God to speak to us, that we can experience our own redemption. This is when our attention can be reoriented outward, toward the experiences of others.
People are transformed primarily by two means: (1) personal, experiential transformation and (2) from the transformation that occurs when we internalize the experience of another.
Things internally shift when we listen to and regard the experiences of others, and do so from an open, honest, empty place. How can we be transformed if we are not informed by communal means? Through the mind of Christ, this is when we can begin to enter into a transformation that reshapes our view of the world and our role in it. The centrality of mercy is revealed once we’ve entered into another’s pain in this way; perhaps this is when we can come to love mercy.
Reference: Henri Nouwen et al., Compassion (New York: Doubleday, 1982)